Jay Deshmukh, AFP
Last updated: 8 December, 2011

Prime Minister: Disarming Libya militias a complex issue

The issue of disarming former rebels who fought Moamer Kadhafi’s forces is “more complex” than it appears, but these militias will be demilitarised soon, Prime Minister Abdel Rahim al-Kib said on Thursday.

“This (disarming of militias) is a much more complex issue than it may sound,” Kib told a select group of foreign reporters after talks with visiting Australian Foreign Minister Kevin Rudd.

His statement comes two days after the capital’s city council requested militias from outside Tripoli to leave by December 20.

Kib said his two-week-old interim government was holding talks with militias with a view to disarm them and has “solid and detailed programmes” to rehabilitate these tens of thousands of former rebels.

“We are working on demilitarising these groups. We are talking to them and I think we will achieve our goals and objectives any time soon,” Kib said, adding a major militia had already agreed to leave the city out of its own accord.

“There is a group, a major player in this group of freedom fighters coming from another city” who will leave Tripoli, he said in English, without naming the militia.

They will do this “not because they heard somebody telling them it is two weeks or else… No. It is because we have been talking to them,” he added.

“They understand the situation and they actually expressed themselves interest to leave the city,” Kib continued.

Kib clarified that the December 20 deadline given to militias from outside Tripoli to leave was issued by the city council and not by his government.

“We did not give any deadline… It’s not that we don’t want to set deadlines because we are comfortable with the situation. It’s just that we feel that things don’t happen like this.”

On Tuesday his office issued a statement which quoted the city council’s deadline to militias, triggering media reports that it was the Libyan government which had proposed the timeline for former rebels to quit the capital.

Soon after Kib’s remarks, the military council from Libya’s port city of Misrata, said it has told its fighters present in Tripoli to leave the capital.

“The military council of Misrata has asked its thwar (revolutionaries) brigades to withdraw their armed men from the city of Tripoli, including those responsible for security missions for the transitional government,” Libya’s official news agency WAL reported, citing a statement by the council.

It said the withdrawal of Misrata fighters comes “in response to the peaceful demonstration in Martyrs Square yesterday by residents of Tripoli to end the presence of armed men in the capital’s streets and squares.”

Misrata’s military council said that its fighters will be available for Tripoli only when the government presents the body with a “formal” request.

It was fighters from Misrata who captured Kadhafi alive on October 20 in his hometown of Sirte. Kadhafi was later killed in circumstances which still remain vague.

Pressure to disarm the former rebels has mounted after local media reported several skirmishes between militia factions in Tripoli, with some resulting in casualties.

Residents of Tripoli are growing increasingly angry with fighters who hail from cities like Misrata and Zintan and on Thursday they demonstrated against the presence of these armed men in the capital.

Kib, however, blamed the recent skirmishes on “criminals” released from prisons by the Kadhafi regime.